Director: Ding Sheng
Cast: Wang Kai, Darren Wang, Ray Ma, Yu Ailei, Lam Suet, Wu Yue
Runtime: 1 hr 54 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence & Coarse Language)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures, Clover Films
Opening Day: 18 January 2018
Synopsis: Two brothers – Kai and Chao – are on opposite sides of the law. Kai heads up a smuggling operation, while his younger brother, Chao, is an up-and-coming star in the police department’s narcotics division. Chao has looked up to his older brother all his life, but after a botched drug deal leads to the death of their father, Chao swears off all contact with Kai.
The year was 1986. The movie industry was introduced to John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow. Starring Ti Lung, Chow Yun Fat and Leslie Chung, the action drama was made with a tight budget and did not receive much marketing. The result was phenomenal after it was screened in cinemas – the movie became a classic and became influenced filmmakers in the region and Hollywoodto churn out works of similar genre. Thanks to its success, a sequel and prequel followed. Needless to say, box office earnings were remarkable.
Remakes often face the risk of being panned by fans. In this case, why would Mainland Chinese director Ding Sheng embark on one? The answer is simple if you realise how lucrative the Mainland Chinese market is.
The story of this version of the gangster classic is not very different from the original. A righteous smuggler (Wang Kai) goes to jail after a failed mission, and decides to start his fresh anew after release from prison. His former partner (Darren Wang) looks up to him like a real brother, while his blood related younger brother (Ray Ma) is frustrated with his criminal dealings. Throw in more familiar elements like a gang betrayal, a drug deal gone wrong and a tragic family death, and you get 114 minutes of pure testosterone drama.
Comparisons are inevitable for movie remakes, and we will try to make our views as objective as possible. One thing almost everyone will agree with – no one will ever be able to recreate the chemistry between Ti Lung, Chow Yun Fat and Leslie Chung. While Wang Kai, Darren Wang and Ray Ma do a decent job of portraying the bromance between the three men, it is an impossible feat to be as suave as the trio in the Hong Kong original.
Because of the original’s influence in the movie industry, such stories of brotherhood, noble sacrifices and gratuitous bloodshed do not make viewers sit up and pay attention anymore. To a certain extent, people may take this solid screenplay for granted and be able to predict the fates of the three protagonists.
There is enough action to satisfy fans of this genre, with plenty sequences showcasing gangster showdowns, gun fights and intense staring. Wang Kai (Railroad Tigers) is believable as the movie’s big brother character, while Darren Wang (Our Times) tries his very best to emulate Chow Yun Fat’s “Mark Gor” charm (unfortunately, he comes off as a little needy and whiny at times). Ma (East Meets West) does the most with the limited screen time as an up and coming cop who has to come to terms with his elder brother’s involvement with crime. Lam Suet (Three), Yu Ailei (Explosion) and Wu Yue (The Brink) shine as villains, and as expected, the female characters are secondary in this male dominated movie.
Back in 2013, Director Ding (Saving Mr Wu) also applied a “Mainland Chinese” touch to another Hong Kong classic in Police Story 2013. In this latest work, he proves again that he is capable of handling big budgeted movies and high profile celebrities. While the movie will not go down history as a classic (does anyone still remember the Korean remake?), it will definitely get a lot of attention and publicity, something the Hong Kong original did not enjoy prior to its release.
(Understandably, this Mainland Chinese remake will not be a classic like the Hong Kong original, but it manages to deliver a decent dose of entertainment)
Review by John Li